News / Health

Student Binge Drinking Linked to Brain Damage, Injuries

Peak alcohol abuse often occurs when brain is still developing

University students enjoy a few beers at a pub in Cambridge, Mass. in this file photo.
University students enjoy a few beers at a pub in Cambridge, Mass. in this file photo.

Multimedia

Audio

New studies link student binge drinking to brain damage and drunken blackouts to higher rates of injury. 

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that 42 percent of American college students engage in what’s known as “binge” drinking.

Tim McQueeny, a doctoral student in the Psychology Department at the University of Cincinnati says scientists are taking notice, and for good reason.

“The peak years of alcohol use are during the years when the brain is still developing, especially 18 to 25 when substance use, such as binge drinking, is most prevalent," he says. "That’s four drinks for girls and five or more for guys.”

Effects on the brain

McQueeny and his advisor, assistant professor Krista Lisdahl Medina, are especially interested in how binge drinking affects the brain during this critical period of development.

“We looked at a very high-resolution picture of the brain, where we can actually measure what’s called cortical thickness," says Lisdahl Medina. "So this is a measure of basically how thick their brain matter is.”

They found that binge-drinking was linked to a thinning of the pre-frontal cortex, a region of the brain with a long list of critical functions including: decision making, controlling attention, the ability to inhibit responses, considering consequences, monitoring one's environment, acting appropriately and inhibiting impulses.

Blackouts and injuries

Another team of U.S. and Canadian scientists is also trying to measure the health consequences of student binge drinking.

Dr. Michael Fleming's team, from Chicago's Feinburg School of Medicine, monitored the occurrence of alcohol-induced blackouts and drinking-related injuries among almost 1,000 students at five universities over a two-year period.

“A blackout is a true period of amnesia, it’s a transient acute memory loss that can last from a couple hours to longer, depending on how much you drank," says Fleming. "So, we wanted to know whether that put students, in particular college students, at higher risk for injury.”

They found that it did. According to Fleming, one in four students accidentally harmed themselves while drinking. And as the number of blackouts rose, so did the rate of physical injuries.

Other studies support these findings. A national comprehensive study found that, in 2001, almost 600,000 college students were injured as a result of alcohol use.

Intervention

Some universities are stepping up efforts to combat the problem.

Amanda Long, coordinator of Campus Alcohol Programs at the University of Maryland, works to ensure students understand the risks and consequences of alcohol abuse before they even set foot on campus as freshmen.

“We start off by asking them to complete a national three-hour long educational program," says Long. "It is really just a look at alcohol, how it affects students, how it can be a detriment to their progression as a student.”

Once they’re on campus, students continue to get support. Long speaks at freshman orientation, resident advisor training and at events designed to engage high-risk student groups, such as athletic clubs, fraternities and sororities.

At some schools around the country, students are now required to access online alcohol intervention resources such as eCHECKUP TO GO, a service administered by San Diego State University in California.

“The program gives the student a personalized feedback about their use of alcohol," says project director Doug Van Sickle, "and how it affects goals and aspirations that are important to them, career and life, relationships, self-esteem, health and fitness, those kinds of things.“

According to Van Sickle, the program doesn’t try to scare students with grim statistics about alcohol-induced brain damage or student deaths.

Instead, the idea is to give students numbers they can understand, like how many calories they consume and how much money they spend during a night out drinking.

International universities are also taking note. According to San Diego State University, the eCHECKUP TO GO online program is now being used on 500 college campuses worldwide.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid